Bright Idea: Bringing Yoga to the Streets

Illustration of a person in a yoga pose.

When you’re working with homeless young people, yoga might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But programs like Street Yoga—whose mission includes helping to give youth a sense of true home in their own bodies, minds and communities—are traveling the country, in an effort to bring the ancient practice to the young people who they say need it most. 

“There’s something that happens in your body immediately when you move through an asana sequence and feel the power of your body and your breath,” says Rachel Sample, executive director of the Portland-based Street Yoga. Indeed, evidence shows that practicing yoga lowers stress and improves physical and emotional well-being.

Recognizing the potential benefits for homeless youth, Street Yoga started blending traditional yoga techniques, like asanas (poses) and mindfulness, with knowledge about trauma and the importance of self-care. Youth learn how to focus and self-soothe in times of anger, stress or sadness. For a youth who’s experiencing some trauma, Sample says, that can help them put a little space between an unpleasant emotion and a bad reaction, possibly preventing some unhealthy decisions.

“The reason it’s so beneficial for this set of youth is that yoga helps build skills and develop very capable, self-sufficient, empowered youth who have tools they can use anywhere,” says Sample.

Bringing Street Yoga to Your Community

To establish a Street Yoga program, a youth-serving agency needs to commit to hosting weekly classes and find a yoga instructor who will agree to volunteer for at least a year. Street Yoga will arrange for volunteer teachers and coordinators, and provide training and ongoing support. While there may be fees involved, Street Yoga can provide some agencies with the program at no cost through grant funding.

Sample says they have trained volunteers all over the country, and some cities already have local Street Yoga coordinators. Find out if Street Yoga is already in your community. For information, contact the Street Yoga team.

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